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A Third of Business Leaders See Slow Vaccine Rollout as Single Biggest Risk


Second half of the year seen as most likely return to workplace by 70% of business leaders as COVID-19 and Brexit also impact business sentiment.

A slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is seen by a third (33%) of business leaders as the single biggest risk facing their organisations, according to new research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Ireland. An extension of Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions beyond March 2021 is seen as the second single biggest risk by business leaders (23%). In addition, 78% of business leaders believe that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on the bottom line of their business for 2021.

The selected advance findings of the IoD’s quarterly Director Sentiment Monitor, to be published at the end of February, also reveal that a clear majority (70%) of business leaders anticipates the second half of the year as the most likely period for a return to the workplace by most of their staff. 

Brexit has also caused an impact, with 56% of business leaders believing it will have a negative impact on the bottom line of their business for 2021, and just 9% believing it will be positive. Furthermore, 56% think the Government should provide further Brexit supports (to those already in place) so that Irish exporters/importers can trade more effectively with the UK.

Commenting on the survey results, Maura Quinn, Chief Executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, said: 

“For many business leaders, the uncertainties and challenges of the past year due to COVID-19 and Brexit have continued into 2021. Business leaders are clearly concerned about the pace at which the COVID-19 national vaccination programme is being rolled out. It is not unrelated that our research also finds that business leaders see the final two quarters of the year as the most likely period when most staff can return to the company workplace. With mass vaccination offering the tantalising prospect of a return to some semblance of normality, it is to be hoped that, once supply issues are resolved, the rollout of the vaccination programme will pick-up pace."

On the findings related to Brexit, Maura Quinn added:

“With the practical realities of Brexit taking effect, along with the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many business leaders are facing unprecedented challenges. A majority of those involved in international trade, with the UK, in particular, who have responded to our survey, also feel that further Brexit supports by the Government would be welcome.”

The IoD’s Director Sentiment Monitor was issued to its 3,000 members comprising CEOs and company directors. The survey was conducted from 18th January to 4th February 2021 and covered business sentiment for the period Q4 2020 with a largely forward-looking outlook.

Among the selected advance key findings of the Director Sentiment Monitor survey for Q4 2020 are:

Biggest Risk: When asked, ‘At present, what do you believe is the single biggest risk facing your organisation?’, the top five options selected by business leaders were as follows:

  • A slow roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme: 33%
  • An extension of Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions beyond Q1 2021: 23%
  • Post-Brexit 'fallout': 8%
  • Political/economic instability: 7%
  • Negative consumer confidence: 6%.

Return to Company Workplace: When asked the question, ‘In respect of your primary organisation, and in view of the phased nationwide vaccine roll-out, do you foresee the majority of staff being in the office/workplace by:’ the business leaders answered as follows:

  • Q1 (Jan to Mar): 4%
  • Q2 (Apr to Jun): 10%
  • Q3 (Jul to Sept): 33%
  • Q4 (Oct to Dec): 37%
  • Don’t know: 5%
  • Not applicable: all or most staff will work remotely in future: 10%

COVID-19 and Brexit - Bottom Line for 2021: When asked, 'How would you rate the likely impact of COVID-19 - and Brexit - on your primary organisation's bottom line for the year 2021?', the respondents selected as follows: 

  • COVID-19: Significantly negative: 27%; Marginally negative: 51%; Significantly positive: 3%; Marginally positive: 11%; No impact: 6%; Unknown: 3%.
  • Brexit: Significantly negative: 6%; Marginally negative: 50%; Significantly positive: 0%; Marginally positive: 9%; No impact: 31%; Unknown: 4%.

Government Post-Brexit Supports: When asked, ‘Do you think the Government should provide further supports to those already in place for Irish exporters/importers to be able to trade more effectively post-Brexit with the UK?’, the respondents chose as follows:

  • Yes: 56%
  • No: 14%
  • Undecided: 30%.